Diameter: 41.000 mm
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
Cast bronze medal of Andrea Doria, by Leone Leoni
Genoa, Italy, around AD 1541
A sculptor and his patron: crime, punishment and liberation
The sculptor-goldsmith Leone Leoni (about 1509-90) could fairly be described as a highly talented, extraordinarily bad-tempered criminal. When Leoni assaulted Orazio Vecellio, the son of the great Venetian painter, Titian, he had already done time as a galley slave in the papal fleet, a punishment for the attempted murder of the pope's goldsmith, Pellegrino di Leuti.
Leoni's powerful patrons, mindful of his great artistic talents, were inclined to forgive him his excesses. Andrea Doria (1466-1560), the ruler of the northern Italian port of Genoa, had achieved his eminence through his skills as an admiral, fending off the threat of the French. He employed many of the leading artists of the day to make his portrait and intervened with the Pope to secure Leoni's release from the galleys. This medal was made as a token of the artist's gratitude. It depicts Doria as Neptune, the Roman god of the sea whose attribute was the trident. On the reverse of the medal is the portrait of Leoni himself. The fact that this side has no identifying inscription shows that the story of Doria's magnanimity was well known, since the medal was widely circulated and had to be understood as highlighting one of Doria's virtues.
P. Attwood, The currency of fame: portra-7, exh. cat. (New York, 1994)